Friday, November 30, 2012

Vienna: Treasures!

We were up bright an early this morning to make our 10AM timed entrance to Schönbrunn Palace, the summer home of the Habsburgs and the only palace in Europe able to rival Versailles. We took the "Grand Tour" which involved 40 of the 1,441 rooms!
 We couldn't take pictures inside, but it was quite lavish and beautiful. Were it not the winter, I would've strolled the grounds and the gardens. Instead, we settled for a turn through the Chriskindlmarkt in front of the palace!

 On our way back I got a good picture of the opera house, where we saw Elisir d'Amor.
 We walked by a Steinway store!
 A brief, brisk stroll through the Burggarten was next, so that I might dance like a fool around my favorite...
 Statue to honor Mozart! Mike went a little camera crazy, and captured a bit of my joy.

 Needless to say my frivolity didn't help my ankle any!
 I can imagine this flower bed plants with bright blooms!
 Our next stop was back at the Hofburg Palace, where we toured the Treasury, and what treasures is held! Gold, gems, unicorn horns, and some of the most wonderful holy relics are all held here. Up there is a picture of Franz I wearing the private crown, scepter and orb of Rudolph II.
 And here they are for real! It combines the motifs of a bishop's miter and a crown, since this is the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. This crown isn't the official crown. It was for personal use, and most often they are dismantled once the ruler dies so the next can fashion his own. But this one survived because of it's extraordinary craftsmanship. It is a stunning example of goldsmithing. It became so important that is was made the official regalia of Austria's rulers, once the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved (thanks a lot, Napoleon!).  The scepter is made from a narwhal tusk, which back in the day everyone thought was a unicorn horn. I can understand why!
 Coronation vestments needed for the new Austrian Emperor, modeled after Napoleon's. (Napoleon's wife, Josephine, couldn't give him a male heir, so he married into the Habsburgs ...Franz II (of the Holy Roman Empire, later Franz I of Austria after the HRW was dissolved) 's daughter, Marie Louise. It cemented (in Napoleon's mind) his legitimacy. Too bad his father-in-law was still pretty mad at him...
 We thought it was weird that this sigil had a snake eating a baby.
 This image of Christ is carved from a single piece of ivory.
 It adorns this chest, which holds the keys to all the tombs of the Habsburgs.
 A 2,680 karat emerald that was rough cut to preserve it.
 A Reliquary containing part of the true cross!

 A Reliquary containing a thorn from the crown of thorns.
 One of the three verified images of Christ from the Veil of Veronica, which Veronica used to wipe Christ's face with as he carried the cross. Apparently, Veronica folded her veil three times, which left the image of Christ on three pieces.
 One of the nails used to crucify Christ, also containing a papal seal to confirm authenticity.
 A bishops's staff with another narwhal tusk.
 The crown of the Holy Roman Emperor. Probably made for Otto I (c.960).
 The Imperial Cross, which proceeded the Emperor in processions (and I don't have a picture of it) housed two very important items. This very large piece of the true cross, with a nail hole. This made this piece even more important, because the wood would have been soaked with Christ's blood.
 And the Holy Lance, which is said to have pierced the side of Christ, and also contains one of the nails used in the crucifixion.
 An inscription on the Holy Lance reads "Nail of our Lord"
 More important relics from St. John the Baptist, the tablecloth at the Last Supper, the loin cloth of Christ, and others.

 This feels right.
The Holy Trinity Plague Column in the Graben. In 1679, Vienna had an outbreak of the plague. ABout 75,000 Viennese died -- a third of the city! The emperor at the time, Leopold I, apparently fell to his knees (which emperors never do!) to beg God to save his city. In thanks, Leopold had this monument erected.
Our wanderings then took us to St. Stephen's Cathedral, the "Gothic needle" around which Vienna spins. It's one of the most iconic images of Vienna! When we arrived there was a visiting choir practicing, and we weren't able to go into the main nave (which costs a lot of money anyway!). 
The church has parts that date from 1300-1450, and covers almost an acre of land. This church was built large on purpose, to compete with St. Vitus' in Prague, and to show that Vienna deserved a bishop...hence the "cathedral" in the name!
The titled roof had to be replaced after it burned away in the chaos between the Nazi and Soviet bombs. It was rebuilt but 1952, an impressive feat, and proof of the Vienna's civic pride. Each person who donated money for the restoration now symbolically owns a tile on the roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral. 
 When we went inside we were met with a riot of color! I have no idea why the church was lit up like the Fourth of July, but it looked beautiful and was a completely new way of seeing the architecture.

 Those giant red floating balls looked silly in the daytime, but at night when they light up, it looks magical.

 Because it was our last night in Vienna, and I still hadn't managed to taste Sachertorte yet, we went back to Demel and made it a priority!
 In a hotel lobby on the street where we are staying they built a life-sized gingerbread house! It was very impressive.

 Don't eat the house!
 It'll make you sick!
 Our last stop for the evening was at the Christkindlmarkt by City Hall, which is the big fancy building in these photos. It was gorgeous, with lots of lights filling the branches of the trees on the lawns, giving the impression that they are bearing magical Christmas fruits!

 Frohe Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

 Mike got one of those Branteig Ringes, and LOVED it!

 We saw signs for the Harlem Gospel Choir, which must be making a tour, because we saw this sign in Budapest, too!

 A real langos with garlic butter, as big as my face and twice as big as my stomach!

 I thought these were so pretty. It's laser cut balsam wood wrapped around a candle.

 After closing down the Christkindlmarkt, we wandered dreamily back to the hotel, where we discovered they had put up a huge, beautiful Christmas tree in the lobby! It smelled like pine and Christmas joy and made me so happy.
Oh, and right before the shops at the Christmas market closed, we impassively purchased this MASSIVE cream horn from a little old lady selling sweets. Although I have no idea when we'll be able to eat it! On to Cesky Krumlov tomorrow morning. Goodbyes, thanks, and lots of love to Vienna and it's residents (Georg and Gundi especially) for the fond and happy memories!